Monsignor John Hawes was born in Richmond, England and studied architecture in London before becoming an Anglican priest. After spending time as a missionary he converted to Catholicism and went to Rome.
In 1915 he was invited by Bishop Kelly of Geraldton to work as a country pastor in Western Australia. Hawes who was still keen to develop his architectural skills expressed to Bishop Kelly his desire to build a Spanish Mission style cathedral in Geraldton. On his arrival in Western Australia, Hawes served briefly at the parish of Mount Magnet before being recalled to Geraldton to commence construction of his design, the St Francis Xavier Cathedral , in 1916.
The first stage of the cathedral was completed in 1918 but following the death of Bishop Kelly, work was halted. In 1930 the new bishop of Geraldton, James Patrick O’Collins appointed Hawes the Diocesan Architect and he spent his time designing churches for many agricultural towns in Western Australia including, Morawa, Mullewa, Northampton, Perenjori and Yalgoo.
In 1935 work recommenced on the St Francis Xavier Cathedral and it was finally completed two years later. It was around this time that Hawes was honoured with the title of Monsignor. He designed a small cottage, the hermitage, which was to be his retirement home, but in 1939, Monsignor Hawes left for Cat Island in the Bahamas, never to return.
In his 24 years in Western Australia, Monsignor Hawes was responsible for designing and building over 16 churches in the States mid-west region.